Vedanta’s plea to reopen Sterlite copper plant stirs unrest among locals!

Locals say they have no wish to use Sterlite’s oxygen, while the Court says the supply can be sent to other states of India.


Thoothukudi’s anti-Sterlite protesters warned the Tamil Nadu government on April 24, 2021 that they opposed the reopening of a massive Vedanta-owned Sterlite Copper smelter in the area regardless of its intent to produce more oxygen during the Covid-crisis, reported the Deccan Herald.

Earlier, Vedanta filed a petition to the Supreme Court requesting that its copper-smelting plants be opened so it can help with oxygen production to help those suffering from a lack of it. However, local residents, who previously suffered from the company’s alleged flouting of environmental norms, said they will not allow such a decision to stand. They still remember the 13 people who were killed in protests in 2018.

Agitators and activists voiced their concerns about the proposal during a meeting chaired by Thoothukudi District Collector K. Senthil Raj on Friday morning. This was shortly before the Supreme Court hearing of Vedanta’s plea wherein Senior Advocate C. S. Vaidyanathan told the apex court about people’s resentment towards the company. He said that if the plant is reopened, the district administration may struggle to maintain law and order.

Most people present at the consultative meeting stood firm on their decision to oppose the reopening, claiming that the company was trying to use the health crisis as an excuse to gain access to its old plant. The few people who support Sterlite Copper’s plea for oxygen production were shouted down. According to the newspaper, a few pro-Sterlite locals were manhandled while they were leaving the Collectorate. Opposers said they did not want the oxygen produced by the plant that “destroyed their air” in the first place.

However, Chief Justice of India (CJI) S. A. Bobde said that even if the state or locals do not have an immediate need for oxygen, the plant can help supply oxygen to other states which are facing a severe shortage. He further stated that the government cannot cite a law-and-order problem when people are dying due to lack of oxygen.

Accordingly, the court arranged for further hearing on April 26, allowing the state government to file its affidavit on law-and-order issues.

Sterlite copper’s history

Three years ago, 13 people were killed and 102 injured due to police firing during a protest where people were opposing the expansion of the copper smelter plant that was allegedly causing pollution and endangering people’s lives. Eventually, the plant was shut down by the Tamil Nadu government following months of protests. Still, the company approached courts asking for access to the plant for maintenance purposes. The plea has not been entertained so far.


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